Looking ahead to 2020

“Pioneers pushed the boundaries.
Technology gave us speed.
Rivalries gave us drama.
Television brought us closer.
And we gave it home.”

Opening this post with the lines from Sky Sports F1’s fantastic 2019 pre-season trailer feels quite apt as we leave the 2010’s and say hello to the 2020’s. The trailer was quite brilliant, showing how F1 – and motor racing – has transformed over the decades, including broadcasting.

The 2010’s will be remembered on the broadcasting side for high definition, pay television, interactivity through social media, over-the-top, multi-stream and multi-platform. Where motor sport broadcasting will be in ten years is anyone’s guess in an ever changing, ever connected world.

For everything that has changed, many things have stayed the same, and some of the F1 personalities that greeted fans for the BBC’s coverage of the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix stayed right through to Sky’s coverage of the 2019 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

2020 promises to be another interesting year on the over-the-top front. F1 continues to try to grow their platform, but is their subscriber base rising at a fast-enough rate? Will UK fans finally get their hands on F1 TV Pro, as unlikely as that sounds?

More interestingly for me, could we see motor racing’s over-the-top platforms converge? Digital sports consultancy 7 League believes we have hit peak subscription and that “some sports will realise that others are best placed to syndicate their content.”

Will any motor racing series’ wanting to break out roll the dice and live stream their content via Amazon, Netflix, or even turn to F1 themselves?

For UK F1 fans, expect 2020 to bring a sense of stability after 2019’s raft of changes, with Sky Sports locked in until 2024 and Channel 4 until 2022. Nevertheless, there are always talking points in the F1 world, and Motorsport Broadcasting will again be covering those as the year unfolds.

Fans have the second series of Netflix’s Drive to Survive to look forward to, expected to land prior to the season opening Australian Grand Prix. As well as covering McLaren’s return to the podium, Motorsport Broadcasting can confirm that the series will also be featuring Mercedes’ German Grand Prix calamity in full, giving F1 fans plenty to chew over.

There is the outside possibility that Dorna may announce a UK MotoGP contract extension earlier than in previous cycles at the latter end of 2020. BT Sport signed a three-year contract covering 2019, 2020 and 2021, and it is possible that they may seek to extend their deal earlier than anticipated if they feel Sky could come in to swoop the rights.

The start of 2020 should be quieter than what we saw twelve months ago, but there are bound to be plenty of twists and turns off-track as 2020 revs up for another year of motor racing.


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Efremov steps down from role as Motorsport Network CEO

Yavor Efremov has stepped down from his role as the CEO of Motorsport Network, Motorsport Broadcasting can confirm.

Motorsport Network, which oversees Motorsport.com and Autosport amongst other outlets, announced Efremov’s appointment, in April. Now, an update to Efremov’s LinkedIn profile shows that he left the position as CEO in November, moving into an advisory role with the company.

Efremov’s departure follows the exit of non-executive chairman and McLaren boss Zak Brown in October.

Speaking at the time, Efremov said “I’d like to thank Zak for all that he has done in his role as non-executive chairman since January 2016. He shares our passion for the sport.”

“Without him, we would not have been able to grow Motorsport Network to the level we’ve reached today. I look forward to continuing our personal friendship and professional collaboration in the future.”

It has been a turbulent end to 2019 for the Network, after a decision to increase the price of Autosport magazine from £3.99 to £10.99 (essentially signalling the beginning of the end for the publication) was met with fierce criticism across the motor sport landscape, leading to not only Brown’s departure but also a u-turn at the beginning of November.

I understand that Efremov was a key figure behind the decision to increase the price of Autosport to £10.99 in October, meaning that his position as CEO became untenable once the u-turn happened.

In October, it was revealed that the Network had appointed Matt Young and Gary Learner as executive vice presidents, with Young also taking up the role as chief revenue officer, and Learner as chief technology officer.

Meanwhile at Autosport…
The exits have not stopped at the top, with several names from the Autosport mainstay also departing recently.

Long-time Grand Prix editor Edd Straw has exited after 17 years with the organisation.

Writing on his Twitter, Straw said “A quick personal announcement – I have now left Autosport after just over 17-and-a-half years having decided to go freelance. Still finalising plans for next year but will continue to cover F1 for various outlets.”

Glenn Freeman, who was Autosport’s video content editor across their social channels also left in November.

Freeman noted “Time for a change: Last month I left Autosport, after 14 years, to pursue something new. Not an easy decision, but exciting times ahead for 2020. I’ll always look back fondly on my time there, including stints as News Editor, website Editor, + our recent video/YouTube success.”

In addition to Straw’s and Freeman’s departures, Motorsport Broadcasting can confirm that Matt Beer has left Autosport.

Jack Cozens has succeeded Beer as editor of Autosport.com. Beer was fundamental behind the foundations of the Autosport Academy, a programme aimed at bringing young talent including Cozens into the Autosport fold.

The most recent developments follow the exit of Andrew van de Burgt as Autosport’s editor in chief in October.


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The top 10 articles of 2019

Each year, it is fascinating to see what has struck a chord with Motorsport Broadcasting readers across the year, and 2019 is no different.

There is a running theme throughout the most read articles that we published this year, with a surprising entry on top, an example of what happens when your PR strategy goes very badly wrong…

10. Doing the sums: the cost of viewing Sky Sports F1 in 2019 – March 3rd
With all but one race of the 2019 Formula One season airing exclusively live on Sky Sports, the annual post looking at how much it will cost fans to watch Sky Sports F1 was high up in the rankings again.

9. New opening themes for Sky’s and Channel 4’s F1 coverage – March 16th
The change for fans heading into 2019 was noticeable from the very first second that both Sky Sports and Channel 4 went on-air with their F1 offering. Out went Just Drive and The Chain, and in came Outlands and Genesis to herald a new era.

8. Fewer races with Sky for Kravitz as coverage undergoes revamp – March 8th
News surrounding Ted Kravitz dominated the agenda heading into Melbourne. After Sky u-turned on a decision to axe him from their coverage (see below), it later emerged that he was returning to Sky in a reduced role. Little did we know at this point, but Kravitz had signed up to cover the W Series in the intervening period.

7. No UK free-to-air coverage for WRC as Channel 5 deal ends – January 28th
Besides what sits in the number one slot, this is the most read non-F1 story of the year, showing that many clamour for rallying action. Unfortunately, news emerged prior to the season opening Monte Carlo rally that the series would be leaving Channel 5. However, in another u-turn, the series ended up staying within the Channel 5 portfolio, but now on sister station 5Spike (soon to merge with Paramount Network on 7th January).

6. F1 avoids television blackout during German Grand Prix – August 1st
The German Grand Prix was by far the most dramatic F1 race of the season, but the drama continued off the track. In the early hours of Saturday morning, a fire destroyed one of F1’s production trucks. A mammoth effort meant that the action went ahead as scheduled, with fans seeing very little impact to the reduced service behind the scenes.

5. Ted’s Notebook to return to Sky’s F1 schedule – April 8th
Where Ted goes, the Notebook follows. After missing Australia and Bahrain, Ted Kravitz returned to Sky’s coverage in China, with his Notebook also returning. The post-race Notebook returned, although the post-qualifying Notebook remains on a leave of absence. Whether it will return in 2020 remains unclear.

4. A new era, and a new F1 theme, as Channel 4 breaks The Chain – March 9th
Synonymous with F1 fans for decades, Motorsport Broadcasting exclusively revealed news of The Chain’s demise in the run-up to Melbourne. A bidding war between Channel 4 and Sky increased the price for the popular theme, leading to neither broadcaster using it in the end.

3. Coulthard to step away from Channel 4’s F1 coverage for three races this season – April 15th
Like Martin Brundle in 2018 with Sky, Channel 4’s David Coulthard opted to part company with the commentary booth for three race weekends in 2019. Allan McNish and Mark Webber stepped in to fill his boots alongside lead commentator Ben Edwards.

2. Ted Kravitz to remain part of Sky’s Formula 1 team – February 25th
Following intense social media speculation, news reached Motorsport Broadcasting that Ted Kravitz was indeed remaining with Sky Sports F1 for the 2019 season. Every story has a few twists and turns, and this was no difference, as this site exclusively revealed key details behind the decision-making process at Sky.

1. Motorsport Network to sell F1 Racing magazine; Autosport magazine heading towards oblivion – October 6th
As the top ten demonstrates, 2019 saw a few u-turns’ in the broadcasting space, perhaps none bigger than what unfolded over at Motorsport Network. Autosport axed. Autosport not axed. Autosport price to rise. Autosport price rise reversed. All within the space of four weeks. Evidently, Motorsport Network never reached out to their user base before this unfolded, otherwise they could have avoided a PR disaster.

Behind the Scenes
Elsewhere on the site, Motorsport Broadcasting delved inside many motor sport paddocks to bring you closer to the fold, including the W Series and World Endurance Championship, interviewing personalities such as Lee McKenzie along the way.

Outside of the paddock, Motorsport Broadcasting was again present at the Autosport Show, as well as attending the BlackBook Motorsport Forum in September and a night celebrating a decade of Whisper. The travel to and from these events does cost money, along with accommodation, so a hit of the donation link below would be greatly appreciated.

Whether you are a fan of the logistical side of the sport, or want to know where the sport is heading in the over-the-top space, I hope you have enjoyed the variety of content on this site across the past twelve months.


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Merry Christmas from Motorsport Broadcasting

The 2010’s have come and gone, dominated largely by the same two men in Marc Marquez and Lewis Hamilton. Despite the predictable outcome of both championships this year, 2019 has seen some awesome moments in the motor racing world that will live long in the memory.

In my own surroundings, 2019 started and ended on two wildly different notes. Moving into my first home in October was scary, but two and a half months on, I can safely say I made an excellent decision.

Inevitably, activity on the site has decreased as a result, but hopefully you have noticed an increase in content in recent weeks. As I have said before, I prefer to write fewer, high quality articles rather than producing frequent, lower quality content just to boost the numbers. The former is far more enjoyable in my view.

Out at industry events this year, I have met more awesome people during the Autosport Show, Black Book Motorsport Forum and Whisper events, as well as attending both the MotoGP and World Endurance Championship rounds at Silverstone, all helping me to write original, distinctive content for this site. To everyone who has complimented me: thank you, it means a lot.

It would be amiss of me not to send a special thanks to Andrew, Daniel Finley, Jack Ainslie and Nigel Chiu for writing four excellent guest articles, bringing their own viewpoint to the site throughout 2019.

The aim remains the same: to bring motor sport fans a different perspective on the sport that we all love, and I hope that this site is playing a small part in delivering that ambition. Thank you to everyone who has read the site again this year, as Motorsport Broadcasting heads into year eight.

To all reading this article, I hope you all have a relaxing Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

Cheers,
Dave
Owner of Motorsport Broadcasting


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News round-up: F2 documentary release date announced; UK Christmas scheduling details

In the latest Motorsport Broadcasting round-up, news on when fans can get their hands on the new Formula Two documentary, whilst fans of the Formula One season review will be getting double the action in this year’s offering…

The round-up gives a bite sized view of the latest news making the waves, as well as interesting snippets that I have picked up along the way.

ICYMI: Round-Up #7 (November 3rd): F1 to remain on ESPN in US; Eurosport UK to air British Speedway

ICYMI: Round-Up #6 (October 15th): New Brabham film released; MotoGP moves towards HDR resolution

ICYMI: Round-Up #5 (September 12th): Bratches set to exit F1 role; Eurosport executive joins Formula E

ICYMI: Round-Up #4 (July 23rd): New Formula Two documentary coming soon; Facebook touts MotoGP success

The round-up covers from the start of November onwards, so I have mentioned a few points retrospectively for completeness.

Note from Dave – This is the eighth and last round-up of 2019. As we head into 2020, I would be interested to know if you have found the round-ups interesting and informative this year. The point of the round-ups is to cover news snippets that I would not usually mention in a standalone piece.

It is impossible to mention every little detail, otherwise the round-up turns into a long and unwieldy list, which I want to avoid. If you have found these interesting and valuable, a quick comment underneath or over on the social channels would be much appreciated.

Formula 1

  • There are plenty of Christmas specials coming up to keep the pulse racing.
    • Sky Sports’ 60-minute review is already available to watch via Sky’s on demand service.
    • BBC’s 5 Live special premieres on Christmas Eve at 20:00, with a very special presenter. Steve Rider presides over the festivities as Claire Cottingham, Jack Nicholls, Alex Jacques, Andrew Benson, Jennie Gow and Jolyon Palmer take part in an F1 themed quiz.
    • Over on F1 TV Pro, there is a 45-minute special of the Weekend Debrief, aptly titled Season Debrief. UK fans can watch the special on Sky Sports F1 over the festive period.
    • Further afield, Sky aired highlights of the annual Autosport Awards earlier this month. The same 90-minute package can also be found on Autosport’s YouTube channel.
  • 2020 starts with the new Formula Two documentary series landing on F1 TV. As first revealed by Motorsport Broadcasting in July, the series focuses on the stars of tomorrow in a 5 x 25 minute series. Fans worldwide, including the UK, will be able to watch F2: Chasing the Dream from Thursday 2nd January.
  • Series 2 of Drive to Survive is complete from an editorial perspective. Writing on Twitter on Friday, producer Paul Martin noted that Friday was the “last night in the edit.” Box to Box Films or Netflix have yet to confirm a release date for the much-anticipated sequel.
  • The FIA has amended the 2020 Formula One Sporting Regulations to “prevent teams from covering their cars during winter testing, in order to make these events more appealing to the media and fans.”
    • Not only is this good news for fans attending the tests, but it is good news for fans worldwide, as testing airs live across F1 TV and Sky Sports F1 for the second year running.
  • The official 2019 Formula One Season Review will return to a four-hour format when it is released by Duke later this month, after heavy criticism of the 2018 review.
    • The 2018 review was slimmer compared to previous years, and contained live commentary from Sky’s David Croft and Martin Brundle instead of a bespoke voiceover from Ben Edwards. Whilst the running length returns to the 2017 format, fans will continue to hear Sky’s commentary in the 2019 review.
  • 2019 champion Lewis Hamilton appeared on The Graham Norton Show last month following his championship victory in Austin. The episode, which aired on BBC One, is available to watch on BBC iPlayer until the early hours of Boxing Day.
  • An audience of 5.8 million viewers watched the 2019 F1 Esports Series online, according to figures released by Formula 1, surpassing the 5.5 million viewers that watched across online and television last year.
    • In addition, F1 says that 79 percent of all viewers were below 34 years old. “We are really excited about the progress we have made this year with a 65% increase in interest in the series compared to 2018, our highest ever online audience of 5.8 million and 169 million social media impressions,” said Julian Tan, F1’s Head of Digital Business Initiatives and Esports.
    • “The massive growth in viewership and engagement is testament to the strength of our esports proposition. I am confident that Formula 1 Esports will continue to grow and broaden the opportunities for the next generation of motorsport fans and brands to engage and invest in this burgeoning space as we continue to break down borders into our sport through esports and gaming – the growth in viewership and engagement this year is a prime indicator of this,” added Tan.
  • The annual Formula Three race from Macau aired live on Formula 1’s YouTube channel last month. For anyone who needs their motor sport fix over Christmas, the race remains on the channel over here.

Elsewhere…

  • The German touring car championship DTM has announced that they are to launch an over-the-top platform ready for the 2020 season. The platform launched in beta mode during last month’s special DTM cross-over event with Super GT.
  • The EV racing site e-racing365 has announced that it is to reduce its Formula E offering from January onwards, citing the current economic environment in the media landscape. e-racing365 has seen record growth, “with a 74 percent increase in unique viewers and a 54 percent increase in page views compared to 2018,” led by editor Sam Smith.
    • Writing on the site, founder John Dagys said “While our editorial coverage has been second-to-none, we’ve fought very hard the last two-and-a-half-years to make it economically viable. It takes significant resources to cover a defacto world championship and without the necessary financial support, we’re unfortunately unable to continue at this level. The motorsports media landscape has continued to change over the last few months and we stand by our principle of being one of the few remaining independent media outlets covering the sport we all love.”
    • “There are a number of exciting all-electric series in the pipeline that we feel will have the necessary interest and support for the site to continue to grow. We’re excited for those opportunities and look forward to helping share the story of the sport’s transition to electrification in the years to come,” Dagys added.
  • The American bike series MotoAmerica is touting record numbers for the 2019 season. The series says that their broadcast audience increased by 134 percent on 2018, largely thanks to a new broadcast relationship with NBC Sports Network and Fox Sports 2 instead of beIN Sports. In addition, their social media accounts grew by 33 percent, with impressions up by 229 percent.

If you have spotted anything else making the rounds that is worth a mention, drop a line in the comments section below.


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